All in the Mexican family

If you ask me, it's all about the food. The one question that carries the most interest in our home is, "Mom, what are we having for dinner?"

The answer that gets the best response is anything Mexican, and beyond beans and rice. That takes a little doing if the necessary ingredients are not readily available at your closest food market. It's downright frustrating, to say the least.

The heart of our home, and the tie that really binds this family, is the stomach. It shows in how much we love to eat. You're probably familiar with the saying, "it takes comfort food." Well, our comfort food is Mexican food cooked just like my great grandma made back home in her San Luis Potosi Kitchen.

Great grandma had her nearby town market, and I am very happy to say I have the Red Apple Market on Beacon Hill.

The success to cooking handed down recipes is having the right ingredients. While it's wonderful to run to my closest giant food store for the regular stuff like eggs and milk, it's dismal when I try to find ingredients in the "Hispanic food aisle" ... all one eighth of it.

Let me tell you, the pre-fried tortillas and pre-fried beans in a can do not do it for me. I stand before that selection and ask myself, 'What can I do with this.' Generic food staples line the shelves, and I smile at all the different chilies in a can and bottles of hot sauce.

'Maybe we should just do meatloaf until I can get to the market,' I think to myself.

What a joy it is to walk into a food store that understands what real choice is. Right at the entrance, the Red Apple Market welcomes me with a glass case containing a wonderful assortment of familiar Mexican bread. The breads are one of the comfort foods on my family's list, and the display makes me feel front and center.

This is what Red Apple Market on Beacon Hill is, my comfort store, and not just for me. I've noticed the market catering to other ethnic tastes as well, for I see it in the foods they provide and in the faces of my fellow shoppers.

The market's Hispanic-oriented offerings are most obvious in the aisle dedicated to the dry good ingredients I seek. This in itself is great, but for me, the market's most important distinction is in the meat department. My family recipes require cuts of meats prepared and sliced in a certain way. It is time saving and encouraging to find The Red Apple Market already packages the meat in a way shoppers like myself need.

Living in the South Lake Union area, my family routinely drove to White Center and Burien where the markets that best suit our culinary needs with their variety of Hispanic foods are located. But it's time consuming to have to go so far, and the trips were few in number.

That has changed since I discovered the Red Apple Market, a much closer to home gem. I go through three other neighborhoods to reach Beacon Hill, but I wouldn't have it any other way. The feeling of belonging embraces me as I reach the Hill.

This is the same feeling Lenny Rose, owner of the Red Apple Market, says he has. Paying attention to the customers shopping at his store, Rose noticed, in the early nineties, that there was an influx of Hispanic shoppers. He decided to learn what their needs were and fill them. This drive has found Rose dedicating his staff toward finding the best quality Hispanic food items and along with the vendors that offer the best variety.

For example, in the case of the Mexican breads, Rose went through three different vendors to find the one that worked the best, and as a customer I can tell the difference. This is what keeps me coming back. Rose understands the needs of his community because he paid attention to the unique makeup of the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

And it shows in his attention to detail to provide what a knowledgeable Mexican cook really needs. I feel that not only am I welcomed but that I am understood and respected. My cooking in not generic, not cookie cutter, and certainly not standard restaurant fair. It is not just tacos, thank you very much, and I am sure this feeling is shared by most ethnic cooks, whatever their culture.

My family savors the bounty of our inherited recipes, but only if the resources are available. When they're not, we lament at what could be and what we miss. An expression of one's culture is lost, if not enjoyed and passed on to family or shared with friends. In a world of fast and frozen foods, the desire to keep our passed-down family recipes still holds strong. What we eat is who we are, and our culinary roots are ingrained and run deep.[[In-content Ad]]